We missed our 4th of July celebration this year, but managed to celebrate Independence Day anyway—Bahamian Independence Day—on July 10th. The Bahamas broke away from the UK only 41 years ago, but retained its status as a Commonwealth Nation. A large segment of the population is made up of descendants of Loyalists (to King George) or their slaves, who left the American colonies before the Revolutionary War. So there’s not a lot of drama or rhetoric surrounding their holiday.
We found ourselves in the small island community of Spanish Wells with new friends (an American family who are renovating a 100-year-old cottage on the island), wearing turquoise, gold, and black and enjoying local traditions like swimming races, the slippery pole contest, coconut ice-cream (slow-churned with real coconuts grown on the Island), a children’s talent show, a local band playing the Bahamian National Anthem, steel drums and rake-and-scrape music, and, of course, fireworks. The island is a small and safe place, and the children were free to run around and find playmates without a lot of supervision.
Despite its feeling like a foreign country—Spanish Wells has its own dialect, cars drive on the left side of the road, local food and culture are different—it also reminded us of small-town America on Independence Day. Maybe that’s part of what we like about the Bahamas: its landscape, architecture, and customs are different enough to feel like we’ve gotten away from the norm, but the similarities in language, currency, and friendliness of the people make us feel comfortable traveling in the islands. The natural beauty and ability to find safe and quiet anchorages is likely to be a draw for us for years to come.